As part of the Esplanade’s annual Da:ns Festival, Irish dance company Fabulous Beast will be bringing their critically-acclaimed production of Rian – a show that fuses Celtic and West African music and dance styles – to our sunny shores. Gwen Pew speak to Michael Keegan-Dolan, director and choreographer of the show.
12 Sep 2013:
Tell us a bit more about your history with dance…
I knew I wanted to be a dancer from the age of four when my mother brought me to see a Christmas Pantomime at the Gaiety Theatre in 1973 (the same theatre where Rian premiered in 2011). However, I did not get to take my first dance class until I was 17. I trained for three years in London at the Central School of Ballet from the age of 18 to 21. I formed Fabulous Beast when I was 27 in 1997.
What is Rian about?
Rian is a celebration of the magic that happens when music and dance meet.Rian is about collaboration and community. It is about recognising our ancestors and the imprint they have bestowed on each of us. It is about the pure pleasure and joy anyone can experience when singing, playing or dancing. It is about sharing this pleasure and this sense of community.
What are some of the characteristics of Irish and West African dance?
West Africa, or more specifically, Mali, is one of the musical centres of the world. Ireland also has a great tradition of music. Good dancing is about good listening and allowing that listening to shape the body’s movements. You need good lungs, strong legs, a mobile waist and expressive hands. Good dancing, be it Irish or West African, is about the harmonious movement of the limbs in rhythm through relaxed but concentrated listening to quality music.
How did you introduce the non-Irish dancers to Irish music?
Liam [Ó Maonlaí, musical director of Rian] started playing on day one and the dancers started dancing. Over the weeks of work they got to know each other better as their dancing got to know his music. After a few weeks, [musicians] Cormac, Eithe, Maitiu and Martin arrived. The sound of the band began to take shape. I encouraged the dancers to keep dancing, keeping listening to the music and to follow internal impulses. They did not need much encouragement. The most difficult thing on some days was to get the music to stop and get the dancers to rest and eat. Occasionally the dancing could go on for 12 hours or more.
What’s next for you and Fabulous Beast?
Further exploration of West African Music, a new production of Swan Lake, and we are also looking at staging a series of W.B Yeat’s plays entitled, Four Plays for Dancers.